Lawnmower Safety – A Surgeon’s Perspective
During the summer, many families are tempted to allow children to assist in mowing lawns or even do the job themselves as a chore. In my opinion, it would be better for the children to go for a run or walk with you or to do more homework. Here is why.
Lawnmower accidents can be devastating and lead to amputation, infection or death. Even though many parents consider the odds of injury to be low, the massive damage that can happen should make even a miniscule risk of injury seem too large.
Not Worth The Risk
Small children in particular face serious damage after lawnmower injuries. The annual cost of pediatric lawnmower injuries can be about $90 Million due to surgeries and inpatient hospital stays, prosthetics and infection controls.
The cost to a family of a prosthesis from the time of injury to the age of 18 ranges from about $73,000.00 to $116,000.00. Most of these injuries are completely preventable, and the financial costs are nothing compared to the mental and emotional toll a child’s injury will have on the child and family.
There are close to 10,000 lawnmower injuries each year. The rate of injury seems to peak at the age of 4 and then again at 15. 12%-29% of all traumatic amputations in children are due to lawnmowers, and most of these injuries happen to male children.
There are an average of 1.83 injuries per 100,000 cases at hospitals; the rate of injury varies by geography with 2.7 per 100,000 in the Midwest, 2.16 in the South, 1.34 in the Northeast and 0.56 in the West. May through August see the greatest number of injuries. When stratified by rural or urban location, the most injuries happen in rural areas at 7.26 per 100,000 cases v 1.47 in urban areas.
Use Caution When Asking Your Children to Help With Yardwork
Most injuries after a lawnmower incident are to the lower extremities. The next most common site are the upper extremities, then the head/neck and face. Lawnmower injuries impart an enormous physical and psychological burden to the child and the child’s family. Most injuries to children under 5 are due to lack of proper parental oversight of these children when lawnmowers are in operation. Most injuries to children under 15 are from operator error.
Major medical societies have established guidelines for the use of lawnmowers by children. The American Association of Pediatrics takes the position that no child under the age of 12 should use a push mower. No child younger than 15 should use a riding mower. There are powerful cultural reasons that parents still allow children to be near and even use lawnmowers. It is important for families to avoid this temptation.